Archive for January, 2009

31
Jan
09

1/31/2009

Right of Way

Right of Way

In a pond on the back side of Blackpoint Wildlife Drive on Merrett Island NWR a mixed group of waders (Egrets, Herons, Ibises [Ibi maybe]) were feeding avidly. It made for some interesting intersections as they worked actively back and forth across the water. I attempted several of these shots: two birds passing, and this was the best of them. Great Egret in the foreground. Little Blue Heron in the background.

Sony DSC N1 behind the eyepiece of a Zeiss Diascope 85FL. Equiv. total focal length (in 35mm terms) of around 2000mm. Camera exif: F5.6 @ 1/250th @ ISO 64. Programed Auto. Matrix focus.

Minimal processing in Lightroom. Clarity, Vibrance, Sharpen.

From Space Coast Birding.

30
Jan
09

1/30/2009

Close up Snowy

Close up Snowy

Almost too close for digiscoping, but such close shots make for drama. This bird’s pose also creates interesting shapes and forms within the frame. Since we are photographing close in and tight, exposure is not nearly so difficult as it would be on most white birds in full sun. The -.7 EV exposure compensation brings out feather detail even in the highlights. A bit of Fill Light in Lightroom picks up the detail in the beak. And, of course, the yellow eye in the sun really stands out, and conveys a lot of personality in the bird (to be consciously anthropomorphic).

Sony DSC N1 behind the eyepiece of a Zeiss Diascope 85FL at an equiv. of approximately 2500mm. F6.3 @ 1/500th @ ISO 64. Programed Auto with -.7 EV exposure compensation.

From Space Coast Birding.

29
Jan
09

1/29/2009

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

I will eventually run out of digiscoping images from my time at Space Coast. I hope to go out today to photograph the new snow we got yesterday. This, however is another digiscoped bird: Roseate Spoonbill. Spoonbills are colorful all year, but during breeding season they are spectacular. The pink deepens. The exposed skin of the skull cap goes green, setting off the bright ruby eye. Then too, the utterly bizarre spoon of the bill is pretty unique. Behavior is also worth watching. The birds get into some amazing shapes, especially while preening.

All those elements, along with some excellent light, come together for me in this image. Tight cropped in camera by using the full 3000 plus mm of effective focal length of the digiscoping rig, the image catches all the color, the shape, and the personality of the bird. The interesting (to my eye) bokeh pattern completes the effect.

Sony DSC N1 behind the eyepiece of a Zeiss Diascope 85FL at 3000mm equiv. effective focal length. F8.0 @ 1/160 @ ISO 64. Programed Auto. Selective spot focus on the eye.

From the Space Coast Birding Gallery.

28
Jan
09

1/28/2009

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

The Hooded Merganser is one of my most sought after subjects…in that I have, to date, not gotten a completely satisfying image of one. Part of the problem is that 1) I only reliably see them in Florida or New Mexico, 2) I am only in FL and NM a few times a year, always the same weeks, and the Hoodies may or may not be there then, 3) they are never close enough, 4) the brilliant white markings on the jet black body are almost impossible to expose for, and 5) even the yellow eye is so intense against the black that it often burns out.

I went to Viera Wetlands specifically for Hooded Merganser. I knew there would be a lot of bonus birds (though I did not expect the treasures I actually found), but it was the reported Hoodeds, and some images my friend Roy Halpen had taken there a year ago, that inspired me to spend the morning of my flight home there.

It took me three loops of the dike roads to find this guy. The distance was right. The light was a bit more intense than I would have liked by that time of day. And he never did flare his head crest all the way out, but this is my best Hooded Merganser shot so far. Softer light would have maybe allowed me to maintain some feather detail in the crest, but then I would have lost the drama of the reeds and their reflections, and the highlighted ripples. All in all, pretty good okay. I still hope for a better shot someday…but I am pretty happy with this.

Sony DSC N1 behind the eyepiece of a Zeiss Diascope 85FL. Equiv. combined focal length approximately 3000mm. F5.0 @ 1/250th @ ISO 64. -.7 EV exposure compensation. Selective spot focus placed on eye.

From the Space Coast Birding Gallery.

27
Jan
09

1/27/2009

Wing Maintenance

Wing Maintenance

Viera Wetlands is a manufactured wetlands (aka Sewer Treatment Plant) near Melbourne Florida, and is, acre for acre, one of the most productive locations for rare birds in North America…and is certainly one of the best venues for bird photography.

Great Blue Herons at Viera like to perch on top of dead palm trunks, 12 feet off the water, and just above eye-level from the dikes around the ponds. They are spectacular against the blue Florida sky. This fellow was grooming and I caught him with his wing fully extended, working on flight feathers. The sky-light coming through the wing makes for what I consider an interesting study.

At this distance (less than 100 feet) even the wide end of the Sony zoom on my digiscoping rig was a bit tight for the heron.

Sony DSC N1 behind the eyepiece of a Zeiss Diascope 85FL. 1100mm total focal length equivalent. F4.0 @ 1/250 @ ISO 64. Programed Auto with Selective Spot Focus. No EV compensation.

Just the most basic sharpening, Clarity, and Vibrance in Lightroom.

From the Space Coast Birding Gallery.

26
Jan
09

1/26/2009

Snowy

Snowy

Snowy Egrets like to stand on the lower lip of culverts where water moves from one pond or channel to the next at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The moving water carries fish, and the fish are easy prey as they dump disorientated out of the culvert. Why hunt when you can stand still and wait for the food to be delivered?

I saw this one and knew it had real possibilities. White bird. Black background. There was no safe stopping for several hundred yards so I walked back with my digiscoping rig.

Of course, white bird on black background poses an real problem for the camera’s exposure system. I cranked the EV compensation to -2 (as far as it will go). As you see, I still lost the brightest highlights, but I doubt I could have fond a better exposure by going manual. The contrast range is simply beyond what the sensor can capture, and I wanted to keep the white bird white, after all.

The black background turns the image into a study in shape and texture, almost a still life. It looks like something much more contrived than it is: simply a white bird standing in the mouth of culvert. The Snowy Egret is certainly one of God’s most elegant creations, and this image brings out all that elegance.

Sony DSC N1 behind the eyepiece of a Zeiss Diascope 85FL spotting scope. F8.0 @ 1/250th @ ISO 64. Programed Auto. Selective Spot Focus and -2 EV.

Recovery for highlights in Lightroom. Just a bit of Vibrance and Clarity and the Sharpen portrait preset.

From the Space Coast Birding Gallery.

For the bird in a wider context, see this image.

25
Jan
09

1/25/2009

Wood Stork

Wood Stork

Wood Storks are, in my considered opinion, the ugliest birds in the world…and one of the most beautiful. There is the undeniable beauty of their white plumage. In flight, with black wing-tips and their unique stretched out position, they are quite elegant. It is only the head, really where the ugly comes out, and it is the kind of super-ugly, over the top ugly, that crosses over, and has a beauty of its own.

This bird was in difficult light, strong low side-light, almost back-light, and I waited a while and wasted some exposures before catching him turned just enough to light the face. The water acted as the perfect reflector to open what otherwise would have been dense shadow on the left side (I helped it along with some Fill Light in Lightroom in post processing, but, once more, I knew I would be able to do that, and held the exposure down to capture detail in the highlights).

The bird is placed in the frame right on the intersecting lines of the Rule of Thirds, looking into the frame. A classic portrait.

Sony DSC N1 behind the eyepiece of a Zeiss Diascope 85FL. Equiv. focal length 1500mm. F4.0 @ 1/800 @ ISO 64. Programed Auto. No EV bias.

In Lightroom I did use Fill Light to open the shadows, and a bit of Recovery to bring out detail in the highlighted face. Clarity and Vibrance, and Portrait sharpen preset.

From the Space Coast Birding Gallery.

24
Jan
09

1/24/2009

Tricolor

Tricolor

Tricolored Herons are everywhere at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge this year. This bird posed nicely for me quite close to Blackpoint Wildlife Drive.

This is another digiscoped shot, using the Zeiss Diascope 85FL and the Sony DSC N1 camera. (see yesterday’s post). The effective zoom on the Sony behind the scope gives me the option of full frame shots of a bird like this at this distance, or of head and shoulder portraits like this one.

Perfect light to pick out every detail. Cooperative bird. Right distance. No wind to vibrate the tripod at high magnification. A digiscoper’s (or any long range photographer’s) dream.

Sony DSC N1 at full zoom (about 100mm equiv.). F5.4 @ 1/250 @ ISO 64. Programed Auto, Selective spot focus (focus on the eye of the bird) and matrix metering.

Minimal processing in Lightroom. Sharpen portraits preset, some Clarity and Vibrance added.

From the Space Coast Birding Gallery.

23
Jan
09

1/23/2009

Kingfisher Lady

Kingfisher Lady

Kingfishers are my favorite birds. We have three species in North America. The Belted is the most common, occurring pretty much everywhere, while the other two are restricted to the extreme south, mostly right along the Mexican boarder. I have been privileged to photograph all three, and every encounter is special.

I have seen Belted Kingfisher on every trip to Merritt Island NWR. They are pretty dense there, on the wires along the highways as they pass through the ponds, and more occasionally, out in the mangroves of Black Point Wildlife Drive. Of course, there are very likely more out on Black Point Drive than along the roads, but they are much harder to see when they aren’t perched up on a phone wire.

I don’t like photographing them on wires. There is the danger of stopping and setting up a tripod along a busy highway, of course, but more than that, it is simply not aesthetically pleasing to me to image the bird on an ugly wire.

This bird was ahead of me as I drove along Blackpoint drive. I saw it twice before it found this fishing perch on the far side of a channel 40 feet wide. I stopped and took a few shots with my Sony H50 out the window of the car, debating the wisdom of getting out and setting up my spotting scope and digiscoping rig for some close up shots. With Kingfishers it almost never worth the effort as they invariably fly off before you get the tripod set up.

This bird, however, stayed put, too busy fishing to give me more than the occasional glance. I watched and photographed for more than 40 minutes, taking 100s of exposures at all powers, moving along the road to get better angles, etc. etc…until I finely packed up and moved on. She was still fishing when I left.

Digiscoping is the art of taking an image by placing a digital camera behind the eyepiece of a spotting scope. A small compact digital, or even a DSLR with a 40-50mm lens, will focus through the scope and capture amazingly detailed images of birds and other wildlife. For this shot I used a Zeiss Diascope 85FL (a very high quality spotting scope with special glass for extreme color correction), a fixed power 30x eyepiece, a Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod and light weight video head, a special Zeiss bracket to hold the camera steady behind the eyepiece, and a Sony DSC N1 pocket sized digital camera with touch screen and movable spot focus. (For more on this see: P&S for Wildlife on Point and Shoot Landscape.)

One of the hardest things about any high power, long distance photography is selecting the focus point, especially with auto focus. The movable spot on the Sony N1, along with the touch screen, make it easy to place the spot on the bird’s eye, where you want it.

Because the field of view of the camera is so small and concentrated through the scope, exposure accuracy is excellent with most small Point and Shoot digitals, as it is here.

Zeiss Diascope 85FL, Sony DSC N1 (8 mp), at a camera zoom equiv. of 100mm and a total equivalent focal length of about 3000mm. Camera at F5.4 @ 1/125th @ ISO 200. Programed Auto. Selective spot focus.

Digiscoped images generally only required minimal processing. Sharpening (Portrait preset in Lightroom), and some Clarity and Vibrance for effect.

From the Space Coast Birding Gallery.

22
Jan
09

1/22/2009

Alone

Alone

The odd pose of the bird as it hunts…the odd lighting in the shadowed channel and the late sun, the reflections beyond the bird, and patterning in the water in the foreground, all combine for me into something more than the sum of their parts. Not a picture of a bird, though the bird is important to the picture, but a picture of a moment in time, a quirky moment, when the lone hunter is most alone. The distance keeps us distant, but so do the harmonies of the composition…the pattern of light and dark, color and the silver of the water. Not your typical bird portrait.

Sony DSC H50 at almost full telephoto (400mm equiv.). F4.5 @ 1/500th @ ISO 100. Programed Auto.

In Lightroom, I used some Recovery to bring up detail in the foreground water, Clarity and Vibrance for overall effect, and the Sharpen landscapes preset. Once more, the image required some Fill Light to open shadows.

From the Space Coast Birding Gallery.